By Angela Norris
The city of Greenwood broke ground on a memorial central to revitalization efforts in downtown Greenwood.
Veterans, police officers, firefighters, city leaders and residents gathered April 29 at the corner of Old Meridian Street and Surina Way to share stories, as well as designs and plans for the memorial, and recognize Greenwood’s current and fallen heroes.
Paul Totten, a decorated World War II veteran and lifelong Greenwood resident, died Jan. 25, 2018, four years after the city broke ground on a similar memorial project that he helped plan. He spent the years leading up to his death pursuing the plans before handing over the project to Paul St. Pierre, president of several area funeral homes and chairman of the Greater Greenwood Veterans Memorial Committee.
“Paul lived in Greenwood his entire life with exception of his time in World War II,” St. Pierre said. “He died peacefully knowing I was going to carry this torch forward.”
Plans call for several memorials to be placed near the large central feature of the memorial, a 16-foot granite pillar with an eagle on top. That centerpiece will be surrounded by six, 6-foot tablets, featuring each branch of service. The hope is that each piece will be paid for by a donor, whose name will be displayed on the monument. Donors can also buy benches and memorial bricks. All benches and bricks will feature the donor’s requested veteran’s name and can include pictures requested.
“The veterans in our community were honored to have a dedicated space at Freedom Park, but it was never their number one choice. They always wanted to be in the center of downtown.” St. Pierre said. “With the changes that are being made right now, we couldn’t think of a more fitting place than right in the middle of downtown Greenwood.”
The memorial will provide a place for the community to witness the scope and depth of the continuing gratitude toward veterans, police, fire and EMT in the entire Greater Greenwood area.
The memorial is expected to cost about $200,000, 80 percent less than the original estimate. Because of St. Pierre’s connections as a funeral director, he has access to granite and other types of materials needed for the memorial and receives discounted pricing. If the committee can get all major pieces for the project purchased by donors by the end of August, the plans are to have a ribbon-cutting ceremony during the Freedom Festival in 2020.
“The most beautiful part of the veterans committee, in my opinion, has been efforts over the years to raise funds for a special centerpiece, that bronze eagle,” St. Pierre said.
Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers said the memorial is not just dedicated to veterans. “It’s also for our police officers, our firemen and our EMTs who have given of their lives unselfishly to serve our community. We want to remember those people who were here over the years and who are here now. Help us as we help others who have helped this community,” he said.
Other committee members who worked with this project include Greenwood City Council member Linda Gibson, and Loren Minnix, founder and president of the local nonprofit, Warrior’s Hope, Inc.